Hi Marisa, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Hello! My name is Marisa and I'm currently a Product Designer at TikTok. Previously, I led design team at an early-stage startup through an acquisition. I also create short-form content about design, tech, and lifestyle on TikTok.
When I'm not out on my paddleboard, I run Workology, an ergonomic lifestyle brand, and Mesh Times, a curated design merch store.
After hours, I travel between the world of web3 and web2, creating NFTs and digital tokens for a good cause.
How did you get into Product Design?
Growing up, I watched my mom built a fashion label from scratch. She did everything from sketching, material sourcing, production, and QA. My understanding of the design process started from there. My allowance was spent mostly on art supplies.
After an art boarding high school, I was naturally eased into fashion design and decided to major in apparel & textiles in college. My mom wanted me to take over her label after I graduated.
Towards the end of my senior year, I found myself feeling uneasy about the process and how fashion was more about the expression, and users weren't really considered in the design process. Simply put, it was aesthetics over utility. This sparked my interest in human-centered design.
While I was trying to familiarize myself with product design, I started a Kickstarter project called Mesh. It is a modular piece of fabric to allow people to invent their own fashion items and it's not just a regular fashion artifact but an item that grows with people's needs. Here, I learned how to transport user's needs into a product.
From that point on, I started a podcast, "Design Picnic" with a friend from middle school. Through countless recording sessions, I was able to meet so many design experts whom I called friends and mentors today.
How did you find your first Product Design job?
Instead of cold applying, I was doing everything I could think of to get in front of hiring managers. After asking around, Twitter was where most senior designers and design leads hang out so I sent out a tweet saying something like:
In addition to that — to each hiring manager, I also created a customized resume where I wrote a story of why I want to work there. The response was very positive and rewarding.
Not only did I get referrals, but people were also giving constructive feedback on my portfolio as well as connecting me to hiring managers. I landed over 10+ interviews with 3 offers at the end.
What did you learn
- Look for the side door when the front door shuts you out. Pivot when you need to.
- We as product designers iterate on design all the time but we often overlooked ourselves and our professional journey. If the current process doesn't work out for you → you need to pivot.
- Think about your target demographics. A resume will only get you through the recruiter but it's actually the hiring managers you want to impress.
How did you get from there to joining TikTok?
I knew that I wanted to work at a startup but also somewhere big enough where there's a solid design community when I need to seek feedback. TikTok is growing rapidly and they happened to have a job opening at the time and I just applied with my TikTok and customized resume that I made specifically for them.
You joined TikTok not that long ago, can you tell us more about your Product Designer role there?
We’re at a pretty exciting time at Tiktok, the platform is growing like crazy and it’s been the most downloaded app for the 4th month in a row. It’s been super fun and inspiring to be in a hyper growth company like this. I’m currently working on multiple verticals from login & onboarding experience to the new AR initiatives.
As a product designer at TikTok, I work very closely with PMs, Engineers, UX writers, and Data. I create end-to-end user flows and provide multiple design solutions based on user needs, business goals, and technical constraints to get buy-ins from different stakeholders.
My day-to-day typically involves checking in with the team and making design changes as needed to the PRD, catching up with the engineers, heads down designing and also contributing to the team design system. Twice a week, we also run design critiques where designers on the team regularly give and receive feedback. Every quarter, I would have to present key learnings within the team and larger XFN groups as well.
Another thing that I really enjoy about working at TikTok is being surrounded by so many talented teammates. I’ve been learning from them more than I did back in design school! Every Monday during our stand-up, we each would share our favorite TikTok that we watched over the weekend. Most of the team is based in LA and our off-site ranges from beach picnics to online circus experience.
How did I get into content creation?
I have always been camera shy but during the beginning of the pandemic, my friend told me to download TikTok. After browsing and poking around, I realized no one has tapped into Product Design content just yet. I took this as a sign and grabbed the @productdesign handle on TikTok without thinking twice. The account has been growing rapidly with 124K followers within one year.
Why did you choose to create your content for TikTok and not some other platform?
Through talking to Gen Zs who want to break into design and tech, I found out that Twitter can be quite an intimidating place for someone with no experience. While you can find a lot of educational design threads on Twitter, most designers on the platform are at senior, lead, executive levels making it hard for Gen Zs to connect with them.
I saw an opportunity in a short-form content platform like Tiktok and took a stab at it. The results after one year have been very rewarding. I have helped over 2K high school students break into the design early and people from other professions transitioned into the design.
What type of content do you make on TikTok?
I have been experimenting with many different types of content. But these are the most successful ones:
- How to transition from another profession to Product Design?
- How to begin your Product Design journey early even if your college doesn't have a Human-Centered Design major?
- Resources to improve your design skills
- How to present your design work internally and during interviews
- Design memes
What would be your advice to someone who wants to start creating content?
Create a brand for yourself
Start off by building your brands and identifying your personal value and key audiences. Remember that your 9-5 job title doesn't have to label who you are after hours or on the weekend. Even if you are a Product Designer with less than 1 year of experience, it doesn't mean that you can't create content around your post-grad journey. Trust me, so many people will be able to relate to your hardships and struggles rather than your shiny job offer.
Knowing what your audience wants
The most important thing is to identify who your main audience is and what niche you want to zero in on. Do you want to create content for UX researchers, design system designers, or designers going into management level?
Areas to consider:
- Technical design skills (prototyping, roadmapping)
- Soft design skills (building your team, managing)
- Industry/vertical expertise (fintech, health tech, b2b)
The next thing that I found helpful was to create a quick and dirty research on your audience. I regularly post a "Ask me anything" on my instagram story. I start by noting down all the questions I get asked often. If there is a repetition, I will create a video for it.
Talking in front of a video camera is not for everyone. There are endless platforms you can leverage. For those who are camera-shy, you can create content that comes in the form of written, podcast, or audio content. For those who are more outgoing and don't like to take themselves seriously then maybe Instagram Reels or TikTok might be right for you. You can also sell online courses in bite-sized pieces that people can digest in their free time like Patreon. The lesson here is to learn which medium works best for you and just go for it!
Bonus Question: What’s your favorite way to eat an avocado?
On a toast with smoked salmon and a pinch of salt and pepper 🥑
What is Avocode?
It’s an all-in-one tool for teams that want to code and collaborate on UI design files 2x faster.